Trump supporters are the biggest consumers of low-quality, sensationalist news stories on social media, according to a new report by Oxford University.
The study, conducted over three months leading up to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week, goes beyond the abundant evidence that Republicans, Democrats, and independents rely on different news sources, finding a clear divide in which social media users consume stories from discredited sources.
Consumers of these accounts are “playing with different facts, and they think they have the inside scoop on conspiracies,” lead researcher Philip Howard told McClatchy. “A small chunk of the population isn’t able to talk politics or share ideas in a sensible way with the rest of the population.”
“The Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together.”—Computational Propaganda Project, Oxford University
Researchers with the university’s Computational Propaganda Project monitored more than 13,000 politically active Twitter users who fell into a number of categories including Trump supporters, Trump Resistance members, and progressives, as well as 48,000 Facebook accounts that showed an interest in political news—ranging from people who expressed anti-immigrant sentiments to those who posted about women’s rights and other progressive causes.
The study also identified 91 sources that were identified as dispensing “junk news”—defined as “extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial, masked commentary, and fake news.”
“The Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together,” the researchers concluded. “This pattern is repeated on Facebook, where the Hard Conservatives group consumed the highest proportion of junk news.”
The report also found that “junk news” made up the largest proportion of news stories shared by the Trump Support contingent on Twitter.
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